In the face of industry or leadership standards which may divert from a sense of personal ethicality, Merrill suggests that it must largely fall upon the individual to find an ethical and professional compass.
The belief presented here by Merrill that there are larger industry forces at hand which may undermine ethical tendencies is further supported by Nagel's article, Ruthlessness in Public Life. Here, Nagel makes a devastating but categorically demonstrable case as his primary argument that the most egregious and socially damaging crimes are those committed by the largest entities. This highlights an issue of startling relevance to our times. With the collapse of such major modern upstarts as Enron, Tyco and WorldCom, all of them destroyed internally by the embezzlement, misrepresentation and greed of their own leaders, it would become increasingly apparent that the presence of strong, defined and enforced business ethics codes is a determining factor in the long-term viability of corporations large and small. So would Nagel make this his primary issue, contending that "public crimes are committed by individuals who play roles in political, military, and economic institutions." (Callahan, 76)
This underscores the unwritten assumption of his text, that we have afforded far too much power to institutions which cannot be reigned in by individual ethical orientation. Citing such incidences as the Vietnam War and implicating such large scale economic institutions as the World Bank, Nagel argues that the largest institutions from which we tend to draw our ethical standards are also often guilty of widespread human rights abuses and acts that could certainly be considered criminal in nature. To Nagel, this presents us with the options either to concede to what we know are immoral acts and positions based on the understanding that society allows these trespasses or to reshape our behaviors to reflect an internal compass of ethical sensibility. As Nagel indicates of these options though, there is a self-delusion in shifting personal ethical responsibility to the mores of society. Accordingly, "when we try, therefore, to say what is morally special about public roles and public action, we must concentrate on how they alter the demands on the individual. The actions are his, whether they consist of planning to obliterate a city or only firing in response to an order." (Callahan, 77-78)
This points us to Nagel's conclusion, which much like that of Merrill, denotes the need for individual accountability in the construction of moral behavior. This is a conclusion which is supported primarily by the correlation which Nagel makes between such encompassing systems as military policy, governmental orientation and corporate culture. In the intercession between these, ethicality proves to be a casualty of interests proclaimed to be above such standards. It is this which causes Nagel to dismiss the ethical authoritarianism of such larger systems.
The unstated assumption which thus resonates with the greatest of importance is the argument that individuals are entitled no personal dismissal from responsibility for failing to maintain ethical standards in professional, personal or public behavior simply because society has failed these standards. Beyond functioning as a recurrent point to this discussion, this is a resolution which provides justification for the recognition of personal responsibility in improving the ethical grounding of our larger professional and private cultures.
Given the findings provided by these articles, we may thus make the argument that evidence especially emergent from the corporate scandals of the last decade demonstrates the cause for ethical orientation in the business world to be related to the understanding that the end of business success justifies the means of ethical orientation. This denotes the inherently practical motives which should drive the codification and enforcement of sound ethical orientation from an organizational perspective, beginning with individuals and leaders guided by strong personal moral compasses. As we find, The relationship between ethical business practices and business survivability cuts across a great many human paths. The absence of a sound code for ethical organizational behavior can have serious consequences to the definition of the procedural regularities and personnel orientation shaping the organization's corporate identity and functionality. Ultimately, this speaks to the primary finding here, that the functionality and long-term viability of an organization, and indeed upon our society, may be as much contingent upon the strength of its ethical resolve as on the quality of its output.
Callahan, J. (1988). Ethical Issues in Professional Life. Oxford University Press.